SAD: Kimpton Karma Rewards Being Folded into IHG, Here’s What Happens to Points and Status

We’ve known for some time that eventually Kimpton’s loyalty program would be subsumed into IHG Rewards Club. The acquisition happened three years ago. Combining loyalty programs is going to happen in early 2018.

IHG has a good earn and burn program, but is weak on elite benefits. Kimpton’s program offered unique recognition, and anyone who has been loyal to Kimpton has made that choice for a reason. They never considered wanting to be an IHG Rewards Club elite member.

Bringing Kimpton into the IHG fold means much more choice for earn and burn. Kimpton guests will be able to redeem for a far broader portfolio of hotels. IHG Rewards Club members will be able to redeem for Kimpton properties, a great new option. And Kimpton hotels should have better reward availability under IHG’s rules, too.

Credit: Hotel Palomar, DC

How Points and Elite Status Will Transition from Kimpton to IHG Rewards Club

Kimpton currently awards a free night every 7 stays or 20 nights.

Kimpton free night awards you’ve already earned will be converted to IHG Rewards Club Reward nights with the same expiration date.

IHG will convert nights you’ve earned towards free nights into points.

  • Base Kimpton members will receive 1000 IHG Rewards Club points per earned night.
  • Elites will receive 2000 IHG Rewards Club points per earned night.

An IHG Rewards Club point is worth about 3/5ths of a cent, so an earned night will be worth either $6 or $12 depending on status level. Let’s assume anyone with 20 nights has elite status, that will be worth 40,000 points worth $240. That’s the low end of what a Kimpton property will cost to redeem under the IHG Rewards Club program. The non-elite conversion rate is offensively bad. The elite conversion rate isn’t super generous (it would have been appropriate, I think, to convert at 3000 points per night).

Kimpton elites will receive IHG Rewards Club elite status.

  • Tier 1 -> Gold
  • Tier 2 -> Platinum
  • Inner Circle -> Spire elite

Additionally Kimpton will retain its Inner Circle status as an ‘invitation only’ level the way Intercontinental Hotels has a separate Royal Ambassador status which is invitation only.

Existing Inner Circle members will become Spire Elites with Inner Circle status for 2018. (It’s unclear whether or how many Spire Elites will receive an invitation for Inner Circle in 2018.)

In the future Inner Circle status will be subject to invite with no public criteria announced. Here they make the program more complicated and less transparent.

Kimpton hotels will honor ‘raid the bar’ for all IHG Rewards Club elites (general members lose this perk), and all program members will be offered a $30 spa credit at Kimpton properties. Raid the bar means a $10 credit ($15 in New York) for use at the hotel’s bar or in-room minibar.

However IHG Rewards Club has little in the way of formal elite benefits. There’s no guaranteed late check-out even as part of the program, and the benefits that do exist largely don’t have to be honored on reward stays.

Compare that to the current Kimpton elite program:

This is Good for IHG, Could Have Been Better for Customers

Folding Kimpton into IHG gives the small hotel chain a platform to expand. They announced 3 new hotels in Asia this week, for instance. It will let them market the hotels to more customers, too. It makes business sense to provide a single offering.

The problem for customers — and this is a problem for guests at other IHG hotels, too — is that the program simply lacks the features on the recognition side that competitor loyalty programs provide like club lounge access, breakfast, and late checkout to name three. It’s not a platform that’s prepared to take on guests coming over from a recognition-heavy offering.

Even top tier Spire Elite, which is supposed to be about recognition, really just gives bonus points or the ability to gift lesser tier status (which lacks recognition) to someone else. Although they’ve trialed actual benefits on a limited basis at some hotels.

Still this move is good for existing IHG Rewards Club members (more redemption options), but it’s not good for Kimpton Karma Rewards members (sanitization of what’s unique about their recognition program).

It’s difficult to get too worked up over it though since we’ve know this was coming. We’ve had 3 years to go through all the various stages of grief. So it’s time for acceptance.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I know I’m in the minority here, but I’ve always been pleasantly surprised by IHG’s hotels – moreso than I would expect since I’m also a Starwood elite. I’ve only ever made it to IHG Platinum status, but was always recognized as such and scored more than a few upgrades and several “nice touch” perks I wasn’t expecting in a few different hotels across North America and Europe. And perhaps the perceived weakness of “no formal guarantees” is actually a strength since it seems to me that this gives hotel management a pretty wide berth in how they choose to acknowledge (or not acknowledge) IHG’s elites.

    On one hand, they didn’t have very many aspirational properties beyond a few Intercontinentals sprinkled here and there and a couple of their Indigos and Hualuxe’s (limited to China). That changes a bit with Kimpton and I’ll be interested to see if IHG begins upping the value of their program to hold onto Kimpton’s elites.

  2. I think the “SAD” element really has been mitigated by the length of time it has taken to merge the programmes. Like you say accept it – move on.

  3. No, Bobby J., it changes a LOT. At least a third, and probably half, of Kimpton properties are so-called aspirational. This becomes the crown jewel brand in the IHG portfolio, far surpassing those generic intercontinental hotels.

    I am outraged – as Gary suggests we should be – at the paltry conversion rate for our existing Kimpton night tallies. But It’s worse than Gary calculated. First, no one will earn 40,000 points; it is impossible to hold a running tally of 20 nights. Anyone who earns 20 nights gets those nights converted into a free-night certificate. The most you could have in your “bank” is 19 nights. But since anyone with seven stays also earns a free-night certificate. Each time we earn a free-night certificate, weather by accumulating seven stays or 20 nights, both our stay bank AND our night bank are reset to zero.

  4. Gary, you neglected to mention a HUGE additional devaluation for Kimptonites: the Journey reward is going away!

    For the uninitiated, Kimpton also awarded two free nights each calendar year to anybody who stayed at 10 unique properties, and one free night for every additional five unique properties per calendar year. This was a HUGELY rewarding benefit, and I am mad that this is going away. It’s on the level of American Airlines halving SWUs from eight to four.

  5. It IS sad. As a many year Inner Circle member these changes are not good. Other IHG brands hold little appeal to me and are never my second choice after Kimpton. To achieve top status for 2019, I’ll need 75 stays; there aren’t enough Kimpton properties where I travel to achieve that (although I have hit 89 stays at Kimptons in one year before).

    Kimpton brand loyalists like me have little interest in IHG’s other brands so I am unlikely to opt for them. Thus I won’t qualify for Spire and won’t try for some illusive invite only Inner Circle where I have no idea what it takes to qualify. Punchline: With these changes Kimpton gave me zero reason to try to achieve top status for 2019. I’ll use up my free nights in 2018 and switch my loyalty to a group with more hotel brands of the Kimpton caliber than IHG can offer.

    What I’m going to get over is staying at Kimptons, which is sad.

  6. @ Gary — I’d like to know why they aren’t just making Inner Circle members Royal Ambassador members and vice-versa. As a 13-year Royal Ambassador, I would LOVE to try Kimpton (and will as soon as I can use points for some “aspirational properties”), but I would be much more inclined to try Kimpton properties if I received Inner Circle benefits. I’m sure the same is true in reverse for existing Inner Circle members not familiar with InterContinental properties. Hopefully, IHG will eventually just merge the Inner Circle and Royal Ambassador memberships into one, like “Inner Royal Circle”, or something.

  7. @Rick. It will actually be easier than you think to achieve Spire Elite status. You don’t need 75 nights. You can get there by points. Get IHG credit card. Use it whenever you stay at IHG. Also, points transferred from Chase UR count. You’ll be amazed how easy it is.

  8. I have always liked Kimptons. I actually lived in the Triton for 3 months a few years ago, and my wife and I had our honey moon from our legal wedding there (big wedding was elsewhere and my visa wasnt in at the time).

    But I have also been Spire since it started. Now sadly Next year I will be committing to Marriott – we have a daughter now, and for the next few years are committed to resort vacations in Hawaii, instead of city breaks in Europe, but with earning possible in IHG, there is a good chance they will pick up my stray nights. I always stay in Indigo’s where I can, I like the vibe (miss the Chelsea property)

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